If you want to test your DNA to research your ancestry and family roots, choosing the right ancestry site can be both intimidating and confusing. There are many great research platforms on the market and here we’ll compare MyHeritageDNA (MyHeritage) and AncestryDNA (Ancestry). When you first read their websites, there is so much information to compare that it might feel like information overload. We’ll help you so you can quickly start creating the family tree you’ve been wondering about.
Knowing where your family comes from and their histories can help define who you are today. You might want to create a family tree for posterity or for a sense of history, or maybe you have lost or unknown relatives you’d like to know about. Maybe you want to know your ethnic background and where your people came from.
Committing to a test and subscription can be expensive and we want to help you pick one you’re happy with. We’ll compare MyHeritage and Ancestry, looking at their testing process, family trees, historical records, ethnicities and pricing.
You can create your family tree without a DNA test, but having your results can lead to family DNA matches you didn’t know about. Both sites will take a little while to analyze your test and return your results, so if you’re really excited you can start to manually populate your family tree while you wait.
Both MyHeritage and Ancestry use autosomal DNA tests, which look at the DNA from both sides of your family. They also both include an ethnicity percentage estimate, which will let you know where in the world your ancestors came from and what their ethnic background was.
Take the test
The DNA test similarities end there. MyHeritage has a much cheaper test and it also claims to be faster, taking three to four weeks instead of six to eight. Ancestry also notes that processing times at their lab might take longer when there is high demand. So their six to eight weeks could possibly be longer. Once they have your results both sites make them available online. The MyHeritage test uses a cheek swab to collect a DNA specimen from your saliva, while Ancestry uses a saliva test where you spit into a sample tube and submit your spit sample.
MyHeritage advertises a “comprehensive ethnicity analysis” from the largest number of ethnic groups in the heritage research industry, and Ancestry is able to match your DNA to the largest consumer DNA database.
And the winner is… MyHeritage. Both tests offer valuable results and insights into your family background, but MyHeritage is faster and cheaper, and it’s easier to get a saliva sample with their method.
Branching out on your family tree
Linking your DNA to your family tree and finding unknown relatives is very exciting. Ancestry and MyHeritage will both help build your family tree and find your DNA matches. Both will use your DNA to match you to your living relatives as well as trace your genetics to match you with your historic ancestors. Both companies have free two-week trials and which let you start building your family tree before you make a commitment to their subscription service or purchase a DNA test. It’s a good way to get a feel for what your completed tree could look like.
Ancestry has 100 million family trees, and 20 billion historic records to search from. As you build your tree it lets you know when there may be records available for your ancestors, and you can add these records to your tree. As your tree expands, they will give you more hints and information to add to it.
MyHeritage has 3.5 billion people in family trees and 106 million users worldwide. They also help populate your family tree and will discover relatives and historical records for you. Their ‘Consistency Checker’ is a nice feature which helps make sure your family tree comes together appropriately. MyHeritage also allows you to upload family trees and DNA tests from other platforms, which is a nice feature if you start with a different company but decide to change platforms later.
Whose tree is taller?
And the Winner is… AncestryDNA. This is a close one. The tie-breaker is the fact that AncestryDNA allows you to create your family tree and add matches without a subscription while with MyHeritage you have to pay for one of their premium yearly subscriptions. AncestryDNA still limits the information they share without a subscription, but the fact that they allow you to create your family tree after purchasing your test outweighs this.
Tell me a story
If you want to learn about your history, looking up and adding historic records to your family tree will be one of the most exciting parts of creating your family tree. Both sites have billions of records, including photos, career information (jobs and earnings) and newspaper articles about your family members. However, Ancestry claims to have two times as many records as MyHeritage.
Historical records telling your ancestors’ life story
With 20 billion records, Ancestry is sure to have an abundance of information about your ancestors. Their family trees allow you to create detailed timelines of your family members’ lives, which they call a “LifeStory.” They also include information about significant historical events that may have affected their lives, helping give you a sense of what might have influenced your relatives and what life in their era might have been like.
By comparison, MyHeritage’s 9.9 billion historic records seem like a small collection. They claim that their records collection for ancestors outside the United States is the best, so that might be a consideration if you know that your family emigrated from elsewhere, or if you aren’t American. They say they’re adding 1 billion new records each year. At that rate, they will catch up to Ancestry ten years from now.
And the Winner is… Ancestry, hands down. If you’re looking into your family’s heritage, Ancestry is the way to go. Their extensive collection of historical records will have you feeling like you’ve met the ancestors who were gone long before you were born.
I didn’t know that’s where my people came from
Unless you and your ancestors are rooted in a certain area, if you were to put a pin in each region of your genetic ethnicity, you’d have pinned all over the world. They might be centered in a certain area, but many people find their ancestors came from many different places than expected.
Both MyHeritage and Ancestry give you an estimate of your percentage of ethnicity to show you where your ancestors likely originated. The breakdowns shown on their websites are very complex, with some DNA test results showing ancestors in over ten ethnic areas of the world. Although they both show you percent ethnicity, the two sites differ slightly in how they relate this data to your family history.
Ancestry seems to take more of a storytelling approach. They have a list of over 500 “origins” that DNA could come from and appear to estimate the percent ethnicity by the geographic region. They then provide you with information about why or how your ancestors may have migrated around the world. Without records related to your particular ancestors, this is just historic information. They don’t mention how they calculate the genetic origins on the front pages of their website, but if you dig deeper you can find more information on their process. It looks like they used 3000 genetic samples to find 26 genetic regions of origin.
In comparison, MyHeritage is proud of the creation of its’ “Founder Populations,” which tested over 5000 people whose ancestors are recorded as staying in a region for generations. From these people with genetic ‘roots’ in an area, they created DNA profiles for 42 regions, and advertise it as the best reference of its’ kind.
And the Winner is… MyHeritage. Both companies display your ethnic background in similar ways, but MyHeritage relies solely on statistics and a scientific procedure they are proud to highlight on their website. This seems more accurate than Ancestry’s, which relies more on the storytelling aspect to market itself.
Let’s talk about money
Learning about your family is not cheap. First, you pay for your test (MyHeritage’s is cheaper, and it also comes on sale occasionally.). Then both companies use subscription services to entice you with paid access to in-depth information. MyHeritage sells a yearly subscription with the first year offered at a discounted rate, and Ancestry has monthly and 6-month rates with a slight discount for the longer term. If you look at their premium plans, both companies cost almost the same, although MyHeritage’s price will go up once you finish the first-year discounted rate.
MyHeritage has a variety of tiers to choose from, but if you’re looking at DNA testing to match more family members and research historical records of your ancestors, you’ll probably want to go with their most expensive package. This package lets you use their “Advanced DNA Features,” which help you explore DNA match details, view family trees, shared relatives and more. Another nice feature of this package is their family tree “Consistency checker”, which helps prevent or correct mistakes in your family tree.
An interesting feature Ancestry offers is the ability to subscribe to search records only in your country of residence. You can also pay to see records in your own country as well as basic worldwide records, which include census, birth, marriage and death records. Their Deluxe package offers full access to their worldwide historical records collection.
Ancestry also lets you create your family tree and add DNA matches without selling you a subscription, so you can also try it and see if you like their set-up before investing in the complete package.
And the Winner is… Ancestry, but it’s another close one. If you’re new to creating family trees and investigating records, you’ll probably benefit from starting your tree with DNA matches after only paying for the test. Once you get a feel for how the site works, you can try Ancestry’s shorter-term options. Luckily, if you aren’t happy with Ancestry after a few months, you can upload your family tree in MyHeritage and take advantage of their discounted first-year rates.
Information overload? Here’s the winner.
Even with all the facts, it can still be hard to choose which company to go with and you could potentially be happy using either service. If you’re looking for information about your ancestry and roots, go with Ancestry, because they have a better historical records collection, let you create DNA matched family trees without a subscription and have a better selection of subscription durations and prices.
Neither company will let you down, but with Ancestry’s massive collection of records, you should be able to find out about many of your family members and really get a feeling for who they were as people. If you want to know your ancestors, a real backstory for them will make them feel like more than just names on paper. Are you ready to get started?
If you’d like to read more about Ancestry, you can read our review here. For our review on MyHeritage, have a look here.
|DNA Test||Cheaper, faster test with results in 3-4 weeks. Cheek swab sample.||More expensive and slower, with results in 6-8 weeks.Saliva sample.||MyHeritage|
|Family Tree||Need to have a subscription to add DNA matches.||Can create a family tree and add DNA matches without a subscription.||Ancestry|
|Heritage Records||Only 9.9 billion records, compared to 20 billion at Ancestry||Double the number of records at 20 billion.||Ancestry|
|Ethnicity||Results from 42 “Founder Populations,” claims to be the best reference of its’ kind.||Results from 26 genetic regions.||MyHeritage|
|Pricing||Cheaper test but need subscriptions to add matches to your family tree.Yearly subscriptions with a cheaper first year, but yearly rates increase after that and are comparable or slightly more.||The test is more expensive but allows you to create a family tree and add DNA matches.1 and 6-month subscriptions. Varying levels of records available with each subscription. The cheaper option if you’re using it for multiple years.||Ancestry|